The Secret of Success (and it’s not what you think)…

Our family enjoys a good old-fashioned wood burning fireplace. Gas logs are great too, but they just don’t compare to the warmth, smell and sound of burning wood. If you want to burn wood in a fireplace you have 3 options:

1. Ask someone to give you some firewood.
2. Buy firewood.
3. Chop your own firewood.

An employee came to me one time and asked me what my best advice was for achieving success. This individual had identified me as someone who might shed some light on what the “secret sauce” was and wanted in on the information. While I was flattered, I’m sure my response was not exactly what this person was looking for. I basically let this person know that the “secret” was hard work, diligently performed over and over and over. The individual looked somewhat underwhelmed and simply said, “OK, thank you,” and walked away.

Success looks different to each individual. And, What is the secret to success? is the question that many wonder about every single day, whether in business, athletics, academics, music or life. Countless books have been written about this question and there are certainly differing opinions on it. For the purposes of this post I will focus on the 3 options listed above…

It’s unfortunate, but very true, that many people choose option 1. They simply want everything given to them. They don’t want to work, they just want results handed to them by exerting only the effort it takes to hold their hand out to receive it. The problem with option 1 is that when no effort is exerted in obtaining something, there is little effort put forth to retain or recapture it. Why? Because there is no appreciation for the cost of the result. Those who choose option 1 will often resort to it over and over again simply because it’s all they know how to do. In my experience, these individuals often make sub-par employees and/or team members at best.

While many will try to jump on the “easy” path of option 1, others will choose to “buy” their success (option 2). This is actually a viable path to success. I don’t believe there is anything necessarily wrong with this option. If you are blessed with the financial resources to pour money into an idea or project to ensure its success, then be thankful. But, the problem with this path to success is that when it works, it’s often very expensive. Many who have tons of money and financial resources will often rely on those resources to get them into/out of any situation. This approach can work, but you have to be able to stomach the losses. And, if the money does happen to dry up, option 2 is no longer feasible.

So this brings us back to that firewood. I’ve chosen option 1 to get firewood before and you know what? I felt kind of lousy about it. Someone else did the work for that wood and here I come asking for them to just give it to me? I’ve also chosen option 2. But buying firewood can get really expensive because I’m paying for someone else’s work. I personally enjoy option 3. It’s good exercise and you get to see the results of your labor. When winter is approaching, I love looking outside and seeing a big pile of firewood because I know there will be many fires built in that fireplace during the colder months. And I’m sure it’s my imagination, but for some reason, the firewood that just seems to burn brighter and hotter than the rest is the firewood that I chopped myself. That big pile didn’t get chopped in a day or even a week. That pile of firewood got there as the result of one thing: hard work, diligently performed over and over and over. This applies not only to firewood, but to life as well. Option 3 not only gives the “chopper” an appreciation for what it took to get that big pile of firewood, but also the knowledge of what it will take to repeat the task. The book of Proverbs in the Bible has a great story that reflects the importance of diligence and what happens when it is absent:

I went past the field of a sluggard, past the vineyard of someone who has no sense; thorns had come up everyhere, the ground was covered with weeds, and the stone wall was in ruins. I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw: A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest—and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man. -Proverbs 34:30-34

This shows us in simple terms how the lack of diligence not only hinders success, but also ensures decline.

So next time you want to know the “secret of success,” don’t ask for it to be given to you… but you might could ask someone to give you their advice on the most effective method of chopping wood🙂

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